Lottery proceeds benefitting environmental projects could come before voters next year

Minnesotans could vote on allowing lottery profits to help protect drinking water sources, and the water quality of lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the state next year.

Sponsored by Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul), H.F. 1900 passed the Minnesota House of Representatives by an 87-41 vote on Thursday. The bill now heads to the Senate for approval before it could be signed by Gov. Tim Walz.

If approved by the Senate, voters would be asked on the 2024 ballot: "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to protect drinking water sources and the water quality of lakes, rivers, and streams; conserve wildlife habitat and natural areas; improve air quality; and expand access to parks and trails by extending the transfer of proceeds from the state-operated lottery to the environment and natural resources trust fund, and to dedicate the proceeds for these purposes?"

In the question, voters would be deciding whether or not to allocate 40% of state lottery proceeds to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. First approved by voters in 1988, about $700 million has funded 1,700 projects through the fund.

Current authorization is scheduled to expire in 2025, but the extension would move that to 2050.

Voter authorization would also create a community grant program, funded with 1.5% of the trust fund’s value, or an estimated $20 million, with the intent of providing trust fund dollars to organizations that don’t have resources to navigate the current grant process – often considered a burdensome endeavor for smaller organizations.

"The community grants program will add more accessibility for communities and organizations across the state," Rep. Hollins said.

An amendment specifying programs must provide measurable positive outcomes for the environment failed to gain approval prior to the bill’s passage.